DAVAO CITY, Philippines – “We recognize that our students’ education must go beyond the narrow confines of our classrooms or campuses.”
This was the response of Chancellor Michael Tan of the University of the Philippines (UP) – Diliman on the recent accusation of a police official that student immersion activities have become a recruitment ground for the New People’s Army.
“Whatever academic degree they might be pursuing, our students need to explore and appreciate the world outside of UP and to develop their competencies, linked to social realities,” Tan added.
Tan said the red-tag “can cause anxiety among parents and students, while encouraging the military and the police to harass UP faculty and students.”
The UP official issued a statement on Wednesday as a response to the Philippine National Police-CALABARZON Regional Director Chief Supt. Edward Carranza’s allegation that UP and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) students are being forced to join the NPA during immersion activities in Laguna province.
Carranza earlier bared that the information came from NPA surrenderers who claimed that students periodically visited communities in Kalayaan, Laguna and that NPA fighters would force them to join the armed movement.
However, Tan clarified that all out-of-classroom activities are closely monitored by the university. Planned activities have to be cleared with the Office of Field Activities and faculty supervision is required to ensure the safety of its faculty and students.
Tan is wary of the influence of red-baiting to police officers and soldiers, especially in rural areas. He cited two encounters with the military “which are clearly caused by the red scare.”
In May 2018, an Army sergeant threatened researchers from UP Diliman – College of Science Institute of Biology while on fieldwork in Palanan, Isabela.
He said the sergeant was removed from Palanan after National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, the Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of Interior and Local Government intervened.
In December last year, a student of PhD in linguistics was harassed during the conduct of her research in Zamboanga Sibugay.
He added that the researcher was “heavily interrogated” and her notebooks were examined.
Tan said that in both incidents, soldiers insinuated that the researchers were rebels because they are from UP.
“The two incidents show the dangers of red scare tactics, where military or police might be emboldened to harass, threaten or even harm students, researchers or faculty. The recent moves to profile faculty who are members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) further aggravates the tensions,” Tan added.
Last year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines identified 18 schools where the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is purportedly recruiting students. UP Diliman and Manila, along with other big universities like Ateneo and La Salle were included in the list.
Tan said the university will continue to support out-of-classroom activities and ensure the safety of their faculty and students in cooperation with the local government units, police, and the military.
“We also continue to coordinate with the police and the military but ask that they exert more due diligence with their men and women in the field,” he added.
Tan urged the authorities to let UP contribute in deepening our understanding of the country’s history, languages, arts and culture, and ecosystem, “without fear of harassment.” (davaotoday.com)